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Tanzania: Let's think together

Jacques Morisset's picture

Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with the newspapwer The Citizen want to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys and ask you a few questions. 

Are all Tanzania children really going to school?

Over the past decade, Tanzania has been close to reaching almost its universal primary education targets according to official statistics. However, when Tanzanian households were asked directly in recent surveys, they reported that: 


  • 17% of their seven to thirteen year-olds were not attending school 
  • 30% of the seven or eight year-olds in rural areas were not attending school and as much as 45% for those in the poorest quintile
  • 45% of those of the seven or eight year-olds not attending school in the rural areas are among the poorest people
  • About 1/3 (400,000) of the 1.2 million seven-year-olds are out of school, with rural boys less likely to go to school than girls.


Those responses warrant a number of questions:


  1. Are government education statistics inflated?
  2. Why are children not going to school when they reach seven?
  3. Are children officially registered but not attending school?
  4. Does the discrepancy between official and survey statistics reflect quality issues in the education system?Indeed, according to surveys that tested Tanzanian children, results for students in standard 4 show that only 47% could read a standard 2-level Kiswahili story and a mere 15% could divide 75 by 5.
  5. Why are so many Tanzanian children not learning? 


Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Note: The statistics above are computed using data from the Demographic and Health Survey, the Uwezo survey, and the Service Delivery Indicator survey all done in 2010. Data from these surveys are publicly available and results can be readily replicated. 


Submitted by Anonymous on
My thinking and feelings towards this information 1. Could be the statistics used is not current. Others factors could have contributed to this may be.. The statitstics are taken when childern are registered to the class for the first time. As there is no followup to ensure the number registered is the same number attending school. Also Tanzania is a large country and there is movement of family or some family members. So if registration is done at this month and there new family moves from one village to another, I dont know how the followup is being made.. Most of the family members move dou to reasons such as the loss of a parent or both parents since the kids move to join some relatives in a different place. 2. Not all children go to school at seven due to diffent factors. it might be difficult to send a kid of seven years to walk to school which is located more than 15kms. There are challenges such as attack, raping, and other abuses. Also you find there is number of kids at this age attending to cheap labor such as pett trading, you can see them in the big cities, they could be sent by their parents, relatives or anyother person using them. 3. because of the condition and situation as mentioned above it is likely that all officially registered may not continue studying. 4. Quality of education system is an issue. The situation in schools is challenging, few teaching materials, number of students attending one session with a single teacher in other places is high. few teachers go to remote areas. Evven though the Country is working on this but not all places are being reached. 5. Factors for not learning includes poor learning environment.. not all classes are at good condition. Kids arrive at already tired ( look at transport services for normal students, look at the time they spend waiting to catch the buses and the long traffic.) others need to walk a long distance . The meal concern .. this starts from what they get to eat from home, in the long journey, and at school). All these issues need to be addressed in a collective manner integrating efforts of various stakeholders with main focus to parents, teachers and students as well as leaders at all levels and all who are supporting MDGs.

Submitted by Anonymous on
I do not now the DHS for Tanzania, but I know well it for India. The household questionnaire is a reliable source to measure net attendance rate, completion and achievement for different levels of education. I see that the DHS statistics are available for 1992 to 2010 for Tanzania. These data are much more complete an reliable than administrative data which tend to inflate enrollment, and more if the school budget is linked to the enrollment level. What seems weird is the gender gap favouring girls, does this happen in attendance or in completion or both? Does child labor affects more boys than girls?

Submitted by Anonymous on
Most probably factors such as infrastructure, family and economic situation make children drop off school or not be able to attend it regularly with the subsequent effect on the national level of education being below the standard that would be expected based solely on Government statistics. Tackling those core problems inevitably is going to take time. In the meantime a possible way of improving the situation, specially in remote rural areas with no easy access to schools, could be to send mobile teachers regularly to the villages and leave in charge the most advanced student/s to try to carry on with the classes when the teachers are not around and children cannot attend school; it would be important to try to involve the community at all levels, i.e. including parents and elderly members and have them own the project. This should reinforce the understanding of the benefits of education by all and make it easier for younger children to be supported and sent to school by their families or at least reach minimum standards of education at home.

Submitted by alienindc on
1. there is strong incentive to inflate statistics given that most of the international development fund is tied to those 'numbers'. Refer to Shanta's "Africa's Statistical Tragedy" presentation. 2. Because, after 7, the opportunity cost of sending kids (who would rather be employed in the farm or at home) is higher. Besides the educational infrastructure including teachers might not be as attractive or encouraging enough to attract more kids into schools 3. i don't think it's a discrepancy. The official statistics just counts enrollment while the survey is more helpful in capturing education quality information as indicated. The official position is to channel as many students as possible through the pipe with little or no regard for quality. There is no intrinsic or fundamental foundation for the education policy of the government other than the push from the international organizations. Sometimes, it is not clear why the government does what they do. First, whatever they are doing, they must embrace and commit to their objectives. Why and how they formulate their policies is an issue for further debate and research. 5. this is common to many African countries including Ethiopia for example. It's largely a commitment issue among policy makers and administrators. Resources aside(cause resource is always a problem no matter what), there are problems of teachers quality and monitoring, proper resource allocation (In most cases, only a very small % of the allocated funds reach the schools), lack of overall mission and vision for the primary education system in general, and actually many more other reasons.

The reliability of government versus household data on out of school children is an important question for policymakers not just for Tanzania, but globally also. It is an issue that we explored in the 2010 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, finding potential biases for both, but that government data most likely to be underestimating the numbers out of school. In 29 countries analysed, the numbers out of school were higher in 20 of them - with Tanzania at the most extreme. Taking the data for these countries, we found that out of school numbers could be as much as 50% higher than those reported by ministries of education. Further information can be found on pages 58-59 of the Report available here: In 2010, government data reported to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics indicates that as many as 61 million children are out of school, and that the number has stagnated over the past two years. Even this is shocking enough, but there is a need to continue to identify as accurate data as possible to highlight the shortcomings in access to education. See our recent policy paper on this: This is not to say that some countries such as Tanzania have not made substantial gains over the past decade which should be celebrated, but that there is no room for complacency as many of the most marginalized children continue to be left behind. This requires urgent attention of policymakers in Tanzania and elsewhere.

Submitted by Anonymous on
1. Poverty. In some parts of Tanzania children help their families to generate income. For example the Maasaai involve their children in the keeping of livestock. Not many Maasai parents will be ready to forgo income as a result of taking their children to school. A child may have to balance between going to school and earning income for his family. 2. Hunger. A normal person should eat a balanced diet at least three times each day. Few house holds have enough money to purchase three meals for their families. A hungry child can not learn. 3. Lack of inspiring teachers, and teaching materials. Most students choose teaching as a career simply because they have no other choice. They don't choose to become teachers because they love to teach. Such teachers don't inspire children to learn. Also, in this era of science and technology, children need to get up to date information concerning their studies. A science teacher should have the right tools and equipment to be able to demonstrate what a future scientist need to learn.

Submitted by Eva Theresia on

Its really enough for our African governments complaining about being broke or poor! Tanzanian children are not learning because our leaders are not committed and lack the spirit of making things happen. I think that education is not a priority to our African governments. All or probably most of the people agree that Education is the foundation of knowledge required in any sector. I am sorry if I am offending anyone but I sometimes think that African leaders would not prioritize education because its hard to drag an educated person. Many of our African leaders do not like to be challenged because of they would selfishly want to remain in power and do not help people to get rid of poverty that has been haunting us for generations.

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